Hopoi succeeding on and off field

With 17 tackles for loss in 2002, 7 of them for sacks, you could say that Sacramento's Manase Hopoi had a very successful year his first season starting for the Washington Huskies. As the 'Husky' in Tim Hundley's 3-4, Manase stifled ballcarriers and harassed quarterbacks. As he begins preparations for the 2003 season, Manase has a couple of old-time Dawgs that are in his corner, teaching him the little things that just might transform him from a solid defensive end to a fantastic one.

"I think I've worked hardest on my speed, my first step. It's the most important step," Manase told Dawgman.com when asked about his off-season regimen.

"Getting taught by Jamal (Fountaine) and Steve (Emtman), it's mostly about that first step and getting me to where I need to be. Whether I'm jamming the tight end or jamming the tackle I need to get that first step down to do what I need to do to get to the quarterback."

Having Emtman and Fountaine around has not only given Manase reason for optimism, but the entire defensive front. "It's helped a lot," Hopoi said.

"Both Steve and Jamal played here and went to the league, so they have experience. By them teaching us and telling us about the things they did here and what they took on in the NFL, it actually helps us to be as good as they were or try to even be better than they were."

New defensive backs coach Phil Snow will also have an impact on how Manase plays the game, but the co-defensive coordinator's presence hasn't been felt by Hopoi.


"I haven't noticed much, other than mat drills," Manase said. "We haven't worked much with Coach Snow yet, but I know he's a discipline coach. I know he's going to make us work hard."

Overall, Hopoi feels he has good reason to be optimistic about the spring, especially with the way the winter went. "I think it's gone pretty good," he said. "I'm trying to stay up with Tank and 'Lif and 'Rome. They are the role models, so I'm trying to stay up with them, take on the leadership they have and pass it on down to the next class."

And that enthusiasm extends beyond the football field. "Actually I'm doing better than I thought I was going to be doing," Manase said when asked about his schoolwork and the possibility of picking up the year lost by enrolling as a partial qualifier.

I'm working hard in school and working hard in football and trying to do the best I can."

It would be easy to assume that the 6-4, 265-pound Hopoi would be the incumbent for the role of Husky going into the spring, but the coaches are still leaving Manase's role wide open. Does that mean he might take over the now-departed Kai Ellis' role at REB?

"We haven't really talked about it," he said. "They just want me to work on my speed and strength."

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